April 13, 2014
Programs aimed at reducing underage alcohol and drug use typically zero in on young people themselves. But positive parenting and strong relationships between parents and youth are more effective at steering teens away from risky behaviors, research shows.
“Many prevention programs focus on youth only, and most have small effects,” said Karen Bogenschneider, University of Wisconsin-Extension family policy specialist and Rothermel Bascom Professor of Human Ecology at UW-Madison. “Programs that change family dynamics proved nine times more effective than approaches that focus on individual youth.”
Bogenschneider said that professionals who educate or deliver services to families endorse the effectiveness of family-focused approaches. And public programs and policies supporting strong family relationships provide a good return on taxpayer investment. “It’s hard to overstate the important role that families play in raising young people who will be able to contribute to a strong society and a sound economy,” she said.
One effort that has shown positive results in surrounding counties is the “Strengthening Families Program 10 to 14,” said UW-Extension Family Living educator Lori Baltrusis. She noted that UW-Extension trains local family professionals to conduct the “Strengthening Families” program with Sawyer families.
“Youth who participated were less likely to use alcohol and other drugs, were less aggressive, had fewer behavior problems and were more able to resist peer pressure,” Baltrusis said. “Parents who took part were more affectionate with their children and set more appropriate limits.”
Cost benefits analysis shows that for every $1 invested in the program, nearly $10 is saved in future costs such as drug treatment, lost future earnings and time in the juvenile justice system. Baltrusis said that UW-Extension programs in every Wisconsin county are designed to strengthen families through educational programs that are tested and based on research.
Parents with a 10-14 year old in the family are encouraged to consider attending the next program together. To sign up for the next Strengthening Families Program to be held Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 29 to June 10, call Northwest Connection Family Resources at (715) 634-2299.
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